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For Lannan, It's Time To Step Up

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 26, 2007

PHILADELPHIA, July 25 -- The spate of injuries to the Washington Nationals' starting pitchers will bring an early arrival Thursday afternoon in the form of left-hander John Lannan, a player whose rapid rise from Class A Potomac has made him one of the organization's most promising prospects.

Lannan, 22, is 12-3 with a 2.35 ERA at Class A Potomac, Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Columbus this season. He will start Thursday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies, a move made necessary because of an upcoming doubleheader Saturday -- not to mention the fact that the Nationals have five starters on the disabled list.

"I'm just going to go out there and compete," Lannan said by phone Wednesday. "I know it's going to be a different game. It's going to be faster. I'm excited to see how I match up."

Lannan was taken in the 11th round of the 2005 draft out of Siena College in Albany, N.Y. He went 6-8 with a 4.70 ERA in low-Class A ball last year, but this spring caught the eye of Nationals officials from General Manager Jim Bowden to pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

"The kid has taken every challenge that we have thrown at him so far," Manager Manny Acta said. "He has pitched well on every level."

One scout who saw three of Lannan's starts in the minors was impressed with him. "A very good package," the scout said. Lannan isn't a hard thrower, topping out in the high 80s. He throws a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a curveball and a change-up.

"I just want to get the first one out of the way and see how I feel," he said. "After that, I think I'll be comfortable."

There is a trickle-down effect for the rest of the rotation that depends on the health of right-hander Jason Bergmann, who left Tuesday's game with tightness in his left hamstring. The Nationals might not know until Friday if Bergmann is ready to make his scheduled start on Sunday.

Either way, Mike Bacsik will pitch Friday. If Bergmann is ready to go, then Tim Redding and Billy Traber will pitch the doubleheader Saturday against the Mets in New York. If Bergmann isn't ready, Joel Hanrahan will be called up to pitch one of the Saturday games, and Traber will be pushed back to Sunday.

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